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Put the Kickstand Down!

This sounds like it is right out of the Jerry Springer show, “Motorcycle Riders Who Forgot to Put the Kickstand Down.” Whenever you hear about this phenomenon, it is always couched with the opening phrase, “I knew a guy who…” because forgetting to put the kickstand down is way beyond embarrassing. Have I ever forgotten to put the kickstand down? Not me, nope, not me. However, I knew a guy… Yes, I forgot one time and only one time! And I am not the only one. There will never be an accurate statistic on how many riders forget to put the kickstand down as it is just too embarrassing. It’s like getting personal information on sex habits or farting techniques, in fact, it is easier to get this information than getting any motorcycle rider to admit to this goofball mistake.

My personal experience took place after only one week of riding my new Sportster. I had just re-entered the world of Harleys (well, one week ago) and had about 10 hours and three hundred miles of re-entry riding experience. I rode home from work, about a twenty-mile ride, in the evening, and pulled into our apartment parking space.

I was totally jazzed about the ride home and about the fact that I was riding to work every day. I was immersed in the cool factor. I knew that everyone was watching me out their apartment windows. Watching a tough guy, with all the leathers, a black full-face helmet (I didn’t know how un-cool that helmet was at the time).

I wasn’t revving up the engine, but I made sure that the throaty, Screaming Eagles were setting off car alarms as I passed through the parking lot. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I was just absolutely beaming behind my face shield.

Ah, there was our assigned parking spot and just like last night when I pulled in, I did not ride straight into the spot, I pulled across it, stopped, and then backed in so I would be facing out into the lot for my next ride.

I backed up to where I wanted to be and sat there, just basking in the glorious feeling of being on my very own Harley. Secretly, I glanced around to see who was checking me out. I knew all eyes were on me.

I left the motor running as I was enjoying the engine heat after a pretty chilly ride. OK, I just wanted to keep hearing it, I couldn’t turn it off. I removed my gloves, one at a time, slowly putting them on the handlebar riser.

Raised the face shield (I was just too cool), released the chin strap, and pulled off my helmet. I could just imagine a slow-mo. camera shot of me taking the helmet off and hanging it on the handlebars, maybe a little George Thorogood music in the background.

I killed the engine, lights off, and continued to sit there, taking in the overwhelming silence. At the end of the ride, all is well, life is good!

Then, without even thinking about the kickstand, I swung my right leg over the rear fender and stepped off the bike. To my horror, as I stepped away, I watched my brand new, impeccable, never-scratched, Harley, lean over further and further until it crashed onto its left side on the asphalt (talk about a slow-mo. camera shot).

I have always prided myself on being a quick reactor, a man of action, and now was no exception. Almost before the bike hit the asphalt (almost, but not quite), I had it with one hand on the handlebar and the other on the seat. I stood it up with the strength of a mother lifting a car off her child.

Motorcycle up, kickstand down, stand back, and freeze, just like a rodeo cowboy bringing down the calf and completing the three-leg tie off in less than 5 seconds. I almost put my arm in the air to stop the clock.

Gone was the tough-guy image. Was my motorcycle damaged? I didn’t know as I was too busy trying to get into the apartment before anyone could see me. The worst part was going back out twenty minutes later to retrieve my helmet and gloves.

So, class, what did we learn here today? Put the kickstand down? Of course, but that’s not the big lesion. The big lesson is to keep your focus. Daydreaming, not paying attention, in short, losing your focus, is just not allowed until the ride is over. And the ride is not over until the engine is shut down and you have stepped off the motorcycle (which remains upright), then and only then is the ride over.